IVP - Strangely Dim - Confessions of a Former Catholic

August 19, 2005

Confessions of a Former Catholic

I was at a conference not too long ago that offered the practice of morning lauds, a time of communal worship being sponsored by a Dominican brother. I took part every chance I had, but I found myself coming out of each morning with a severe case of former-Catholic guilt.

This guilt, I hasten to add, was in no way being foisted on me by Brother Dominic (that's what his nametag said, I swear). I came up with my guilt all on my own, thank you very much. I was raised Roman Catholic, and so for about half of my life I experienced the mass weekly, with its responsive and collective readings, its sung prayers and psalms, its scents and sacraments. And now here I was, sitting across from a Dominican brother all tricked out in a tunic and well on his way to being ordained into the priesthood, and I was recalling all the celebrations of faith I left behind upon my conversion to evangelical Protestantism. I sang and chanted and fumbled my way through the long-forgotten sign of the cross, and I found myself feeling guilty.

Not guilty enough to return to Catholicism, I hasten to add. That would be an artificial solution to my angst, I think. No, that day during morning lauds I was simply confronted with my past, all those aspects of worship and prayer that are no longer a part of my regular experience, those attributes of the faith of my youth that have not found their way into the religious practices of my adulthood.

I'm reminded of Abraham, back in the day when he was still known as simply Abram. God called upon Abram to leave all that he knew, all that he loved, to go someplace unknown to him. God would show him where he was going when he got there. And despite the fact that where Abram was going would be where God wanted him, it's hard to leave what you've known, the environment and culture that was cultivated in good faith to build in you a love and adoration for the God of the universe. I imagine Abram, who was not yet even Abraham, feeling a mixture of sadness, anxiety, anticipation, disorientation and, yes, even guilt.

I imagine Abram feeling all these things because I've felt them myself on the long and cloudy path toward adulthood. But I'm reassured that even in those moments when my pangs of guilt make their presence explicit, they are mitigated by the smoldering anticipation and, yes, even confidence that I'm headed toward the place prepared for me, an adventure I would otherwise have missed.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at August 19, 2005 8:34 AM Bookmark and Share


Dave, did you know that both you and Brother Dominic had culturally Catholic childhoods and only came to a more vibrant faith later in life?
More of Brother Dominic’s story can be found here:
Yet a key difference between the two of you is that as both of you responded to God, you were led to such different places - he is almost a Catholic priest and you are an editor for InterVarsity Press. God must smile and cry as God takes us all to minister in such a variety of corners in the Body of Christ.

In God’s mercy, the more we get out of our own corners and pray together, the healthier the Body will be! As for me, it will be a wonderful day when all of us - priest, IVP editor, whatever it is that I am becoming - experience a guilt-less joy of worship & fellowship in the overflowing love of the Triune God.

And, if I remember correctly, at the prayer gatherings you are referring to there were more non-Catholics attending than Catholics. Funny, that did nothing to lessen your guilt. From what I have observed Catholicism can sure seem to leave people with heavy loads of obligation.

Blessings on discovering where your journey is leading on the way to the wedding banquet - may we all have the grace to be so courageous!

Comment by: Karen Sloan at August 20, 2005 1:18 AM

We've got a great book coming out about youth ministry in the spirit of Brother Lawrence, modeling and teaching the practice of the presence of God to high schoolers. Seems like Catholicism as always has a leg up on Protestantism when it comes to Christian Mysticism and habits of spiritual formation; my own high school youth group experience had a LOT to do with my leaving Christianity behind in early college.

To be fair, my church's youth director had a similarly disillusioning experience in her Presbyterian youth group as a kid, and her agenda for our church's youth group is a reflection of that disillusionment. It's likely a perpetual problem for family churches, this idea of passing on the faith without making presumptions about their beliefs on the one hand and exploiting a sense of obligation on the other.

Comment by: dave at August 22, 2005 8:20 AM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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